The band were best known for number one hit Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me), which has been covered at least 120 times.
Harley formed Cockney Rebel in late 1972. An early acrimonious split with the original line-up during a fractious tour led him to write Make Me Smile as a rebuttal to his former bandmates for leaving.
Harley said “We never felt part of the Glam Rock movement but there was a real theatricality about my early songs and it seemed natural to portray ourselves with a theatrical image.”
One of the designers he worked with was William ‘Billy’ Elphinstone Gibb (1943-88), renowned in the 60s-70s for his unusual creations. He also undertook freelance commissions for Twiggy among others, worked with French luxury brand Baccarat, had his own shop on Bond Street and in 1970 was given a dedicated showcase area in Harrods.
LSK’s collection included this Oriental-inspired costume from the 1976 world tour, estimated at £1500-2500. “Photographer Mick Rock introduced me to Billy, a soft-spoken man with the kindness of a saint in his eyes,” said Harley. “He didn’t design menswear, only women’s haute couture, but Billy and his cutters and seamstresses seemed to become quietly excited at the prospect.
“We went for it, all right. Acres of rare Chinese silk, a hood, red satin lining, folds and pleats to the ground; the outfit brought a slight air of mystery to the dressing-rooms, even if some of the chaps did mock.
“The hand embroidery was overseen by Billy’s head seamstress, a fabulous Greek woman, Nevis. The costume shared the stage with me in many towns and countries during the ‘76 world tour.”
It sold for £4800 (plus 22.5% buyer’s premium).
Harley continues writing and performing music (including a current UK tour which will be in Bury St Edmunds, home of LSK, in December).